Practice and Procedure


PUBLISHED September 10, 2003

The county court had erred in imposing a sentence of 3 months' imprisonment on the respondent for assaulting a court official. The correct sentence was one of 21 days' imprisonment.Respondent's ('E') appeal from the order of HH Judge Altman sitting at the county court on 28 August 2003 imposing a sentence of 3 months' imprisonment on E in respect of an offence of assaulting an officer of the court pursuant to s.14 County Courts Act 1984. A court official ('C') had sought to serve papers on E. E refused to accept the papers and C left them on his doorstep. As C drove away in her car, E threw a large stone at the car that caused damage to it but no injury to C. The judge below imposed the maximum sentence of 3 months' imprisonment on the basis of the importance of the protection of court officials and in safeguarding the administration of justice. On this appeal, which lay directly to the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) by virtue of s.13 Administration of Justice Act 1960, E argued that: (i) the protection of officials and safeguarding the administration of justice was important but notwithstanding those factors, the sentence was inappropriate given that there had been no physical contact between E and C; (ii) the judge had failed to properly take into account the mitigating circumstances that it was E's first offence and that it was only a reckless act; and (iii) in all the circumstances to impose the maximum sentence was excessive.HELD: (1) Given that the offence was one of assault, the judge had been right to take into account the factors that he had taken into account in identifying the offence as serious. However, the mitigating factor that the offence was trivial of its type in that there had been no physical contact should have been taken into account. (2) In all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate sentence was 21 days.Appeal allowed.